South Yarra at Melbourne in Victoria has been a mecca for fashion and shopping for over half a century. Specialty shops sited secretly in side streets and laneways still make up much of its charm.
Avoca Street, off Toorak Road in South Yarra has a group of shops at the bottom of this fashionable boulevard, including the friendly Cafe Gaia.
Next to it lurking with intent gloriously is a delightful shop that is a feast for all the senses, a wonderful shopping experience. I am talking about Home & Abroad, where you will find exactly the right gift to give and wonderful retail therapy experience.
‘You are right’ commented the customer nearby when after entering I commented on what a visual delight the shop is for Xmas again this year.
Another nodded and we all smiled at each other as a happy interaction between staff and clients began and friendly banter broke out. We all agreed that the range of gifts for people from 8 hours old to 80 is astonishing.
I was talking to proprietor Sara Lees, who is the buyer, as well as the storeman and packer as she laughingly pointed out, as she busily gift wrapped another present glamorously.
Sara founded Home & Abroad some 15 years ago now and it continues to go from strength to strength, within the confines of its two generous rooms and an enclosed step down verandah.
On the exterior a row of green window boxes brim over with geraniums, different colours for different times of the year and at this time red only adds to the festive flavour.
A tip now. You have to remember when you arrive at Home & Abroad to look from the floor to the ceiling as otherwise you may miss some really wonderful stock.
You also need to put aside some time simply because there is so much to see and to take in.
The stock inside, and the terrific team of staff who support Sara, make browsing and purchasing at Home & Abroad a pleasant and happy experience for all.
I have to confess that I do select a great many of the gifts that I give there because it’s so wonderful.
The categories they have ranges include Christmas, Ceramic, Candles, Textiles, Glass, Bed Coverings, Home Decor, Bath Accessories, Clothing, Personal, Basketware, Stationery, Kids and Weddings to name a few. There are also a number of fabulous jewellery drawers in-house.
For Sara it is all about quality, and providing a wonderful product at a good price.
Where to start?
The gifts for babies are some of the most charming I have ever seen and certainly very special.
Any child would be happy beating away on a drum that looks like it came straight out of the most beautiful storybook and the superb Noah’s Ark and all the wooden animals that go with it, are just too divine.
They are also best sellers.
Why are they so good?
Well they help to inspire children to use their imagination an important aspect of a child’s development every parent needs to encourage. Recently I purchased a large box containing four giant jigsaw puzzles to assemble on the floor, perfect for keeping kids of all ages amused over the holidays.
Sara buys from both here at home and abroad as the name suggests. She specializes in Bridge accessories. Then there are the finely crafted Huon pine natural timber products from Tasmania for kitchens are aesthetically very pleasing.
The ceramic dinnerware is available in soft blue and taupe. One of the designs named for Empress “Josephine” is both microwave and dishwasher safe and it is so delightful you just ache to purchase it all.
Fine complementing glassware is available as well as the linen tablecloths to set it all out on are all colour co-ordinated to give you a complete ‘look’.
Hurricane lanterns come in two sizes to enclose your candles, vases in different shapes to hold your flowers, jugs and decanters to dispense your drinks are all indispensable items in any home.
Sara’s goods from abroad come mainly from Portugal, India, Indonesia and France with rugs made from 100% wool from Italy.
She also has a a range of fine linens to die for.
Most of her cotton goods she designs herself and works with local tradespeople in India, who craft the products to her specifications.
The cotton is superbly fine, glorious quality made into nightwear for girls, boxers for boys, shirts and beach dresses and lovely scarves.
Then there is cushion covers, a wonderful range of duvet covers and pillowcases, hand towels, bags for bags and shoes and a divine range of baby hats made in Macau, that are so cute and come in so many designs it’s almost impossible to choose.
Favourite ranges are the simply superb patchwork quilts and the sets of towels come in subtle colours and are soft and luxurious.
The huge variety of tea towels will make you happy to dry the dishes.
There is also a wedding registry so that the happy couple’s guests can come and browse and make a selection to suit their pocket book. With complimentary gift wrapping and delivery free of charge within the metropolitan area of Melbourne it all makes for a happy shopping experience.
On top of all this we mustn’t forget that the Home & Abroad Christmas trees come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from classic cones to snow covered timber trees, all decorated with the most beautiful range of hand painted Xmas decorations you have ever seen.
Needless to say most of the time I feel entirely spoiled living so close to such a wonderland as Home & Abroad.
Be sure to add it to your list of places to visit when next you come to Melbourne and if you live here already and haven’t been yet, then give yourself a treat and enjoy a visit soon.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2012
Home & Abroad
SHOPS 1 & 2
4 Avoca Street, South Yarra 3141
TELEPHONE 03 9821 5144
MONDAY TO FRIDAY – 9.30am to 5pm
SATURDAY – 10am to 5pm
DECEMBER TRADING HOURS
Monday to Saturday – 9am to 5:30pm
Sunday – 10am to 4pm